eBay vendor antiques143 has a couple of pieces on offer
that display a distinctive mille fleur pattern likely to have been the work of
one particular artist or small workshop.
I have 3 matchbook covers in this pattern: a pair apparently made at the
same time, and one other which is similar but a bit smaller and with a slightly
different arrangement of the flowers.
The wirework is very tiny and fine.
This unique design style appears on other pieces that seem likely to be
from the 1890s-1920s decades - unless desk sets continued to be used through later decades as well?
|Identical wirework in the flowers & similarity of placement in the composition, different enamel colors and background motifs according to whim. The artist was working freehand, not tracing a drawing.|
|Matchbox, desk set, and jar featuring what look like identical floral motifs.|
|Pieces from a different desk set featuring this pattern.|
|By way of comparison, a desk set with the signature of Lao Tian Li.|
|Letter holder from Lao Tian Li desk set.|
The fine, paper-thin wire and tiny detail of these
millefleur pieces made me wonder why such tiny patterns were not also applied
to beads? Or perhaps they were?
|Large beads strung as ornaments, beads featuring a style of background cloud motif common in the 1930s-40s. The floral motifs on the beads are different from those on the matchbox, but the wirework - especially on the large ornament beads - is just as fine and precise.|
|One bead features an old-fashioned version of the red-crowned crane motif.|
|Another old-fashioned crane bead.|
|A carnelian and cloisonne necklace from Germany whose former owner informed the auction agent that it was purchased in China during the 1930s as a gift to her mother.|
|Clasp from the necklace pictured above.|
|Another carnelian and cloisonne necklace. According to her daughter, the deceased owner of this necklace considered it an heirloom.|
Unlike necklaces featuring mass-produced beads of identical
design throughout, perhaps these necklaces might be better interpreted as
suites of similar beads – as if an artisan turned out a small collection of
beads on any given day or week that, according to personal whim or inspiration,
explored a variety of motifs tied together via a matching background color and
size. These small matching series were
then strung with complementary gemstone beads, either using knotted silk or a
wire loop chain technique. No two
necklaces are ever exactly the same, because each uses a separate small suite
of beads, not identical beads from a box of 200.
Were these nicer beads and necklaces in fact made during the 1920s-40s decades? What do you think?
UPDATE: This 2012 Daily Mail article features a 1936 desk set given as a gift from the Duke of Windsor to his brother the King.
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